Carolina Hurricanes: Puck Daddy’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

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(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)   

Last Season

30-41-11, 71 points, eighth in the Metropolitan Division.

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Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?

About the same, maybe better defensively depending how things shake out in training camp. With the drafting of Noah Hanifin, the Hurricanes have another young piece to build their blueline around along with Justin Faulk, Haydn Fleury and Ryan Murphy.

James Wisniewski’s addition creates a nice veteran/youth mix in the back and he’ll be able to help out a power play unit that ranked 13th last season.

His big-ticket contract didn’t pan out, so the Canes rid themselves of Alex Semin. After buying out the final three years of his deal for $14 million, team president Don Waddell put it simply, “We paid him $14 million to go away.”

Eddie Lack was acquired at the Draft from the Vancouver Canucks and gives head coach Bill Peters an option in goal if Cam Ward struggles. He’s also a pending UFA, so this year can be considered a tryout for the no. 1 job going forward. 

Just before training camp the Hurricanes added a bit of offense by acquiring Kris Versteeg from the Chicago Blackhawks for two prospects. Defenseman Forward Joakim Nordstrom was also acquired in the deal. Versteeg has scored 26 times over the last two seasons.

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Getty Images

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Five Most Fascinating Players 

1. Eric Staal, F

The Canes’ captain is entering the final year of his deal, leading to plenty of questions about if he has a future in Raleigh. He’s the face of the franchise, but his numbers have declined steadily. He might stay in Carolina, but it won’t come at a price tag similar to what he’s getting now. If Staal isn’t signed by the trade deadline, will GM Ron Francis deal him to a Stanley Cup contender and then hope to re-sign him at a cheaper price in the summer?

2. Cam Ward, G

Like Staal, Ward could also hit the UFA market next summer. And like Staal, he’ll likely be making less in his next contract. The acquisition of Lack gives Francis a chance to see if he’s brought in Ward’s successor, who is younger, but also a pending UFA. 

3. Jeff Skinner, F

Trade rumors have swirled around Skinner for a few seasons now and he’s managed to stay relative healthy (71, 77 games the last two seasons) after a couple of down years. His production dipped last season from 33-21-54 to 18-13-31, however. He’s still only 23 years old and is already a two-time 30-goal scorer. If his game can turn around and he remains healthy, Skinner could be put a key piece of this rebuild going forward.

4. Elias Lindholm, F

The 20-year old Swede has a solid sophomore season potting 17 goals and 39 points, third on the team in both categories. He was a positive possession player who helped the Canes generate 1.54-percent more shots when he was on the ice. That success earned him a two-year, $5.4 million extension last month. 

5. Jordan Staal, F

A broken leg in preseason kept Staal off the ice for 35 games and played into his down year of six goals and 24 points. Things haven’t gone swimmingly since the 27-year old Staal was dealt from Pittsburgh, and more will be expected of him to help carry the offensive load.

Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

Eddie Lack’s Twitter account. Or the fact that defensive improvement, coupled with much more timely scoring could help Carolina in one-goal games, which they were 13-16-11 in last season. 

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team

Only three teams scored fewer goals than Carolina’s 183 last season. Their off-season additions don’t lead one to believe that number will improve by much at all.

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group

Faulk running things from the back with Skinner and Lindholm up front.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot) 

Two. Unless things really go off the rails, Peters is fine and will continue to captain the ship as Francis structures the roster for the future.

Awkward Old School Video Break

Arturs Irbe getting excited about the signings of Kevin Hatcher and Sandis Ozolinsh will never get old.

Their Best Case Scenario Is …

Deal Staal and Ward for futures and as Lack steps into the no. 1 role in net. Hanifin shines in his rookie season, while Lindholm and Victor Rask continue to take steps forward. And the Hurricanes play bad enough to be serious contenders in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

Playing well enough to miss the playoffs and also hurt their percentages in the new draft lottery process.

Prediction

The Hurricanes aren’t expecting to win the Stanley Cup this season and there are many tough decisions for Francis to make this season. It’ll be another down year in Raleigh, but there are enough young parts on the current roster and in the system that brighter days are coming sooner rather than later. 

PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild/Los Angeles Kings/Florida Panthers/Detroit Red Wings/Dallas Stars/Columbus Blue Jackets/Colorado Avalanche/Chicago Blackhawks

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